Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Telecasting the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge

Photo from WCXXIII by Darrin Banfield
In our first year, 1991, we were the subject of a CBS local (D.C.) news broadcast. Our event at the University of Maryland’s Fire Rescue Institute, captured on VHS would be leveraged to recruit DuPont.

The next year that we went national, we did a great short  (30 minute) feature for the former FETN-TV, a satellite distributed training station now defunct.

In 1993 and for almost 10 years we were on ESPN and ESPN2. When poker took over, we got bumped since “why give away the time when you can sell it” was the mantra of Disney, the parent company.

A few years later we did a three part stunt on what is now NBC Sports (formerly Versus, formerly Outdoor Network.

Last year we were on CBS Sports for a two-parter. Oh yeah, and we had a special on A&E, hosted by Terry Bradshaw that’s still the best overview of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge.

In between, we’ve tried a variety of video packaging. Rex and I worked very diligently on a five-minute summary of each event and we tried the live feed with cell phone transmission. The post-production stuff was very labor intense, taking almost the entire week to get uploaded. The cell phone transmission (sort of live) looked like the orgininal broadcast of the astronauts walking on the moon, or claymation.

On Fremont Street we captured everyone’s run on Flip 720i video and uploaded the clips to YouTube where you’ll still find them on our FFCCTV Channel. The stationary camera provided reasonable audio but terrible video.

In our relentless search for some kind of balance, we went to local packagers in Myrtle Beach; an outfit known as Reel Events. These guys were pros; unfortunately though, we’re dependent upon the local cable provider and all the technology in the world can be held hostage to the pipeline.

Last year, because we were going to be broadcasting on CBS Sports, we were told that we could not air the broadcast for free. We had a pretty good pipeline but not much of an audience.

This year’s effort was the most complicated of all. After having our permit for 2nd Street turned down, we had to move over a block and lost our connetion to the Hard Rock Cafe. We ended up, as you read earlier, hooked up to Kincaid’s Restaurant’s router. Then we moved out to the PIR.

I’ve received a lot of comments; praise and complaints. People would send angry messages that the signal went down all the while, others were at the same time, watching on their iPhones. It’s a mystery that we’re working on.

We’re trying to get smarter about how to best distribute content and live within a budget. Everything about TV is expensive. And, I’m not talking about the handy-cams that you can get for a song, but the multi-casters that allow uplinks from four or more cameras.

Right now, we’re looking at a better format than YouTube for posting all of the footage that we shot. You’ll note that in some cases they have muted the soundtrack due to “copyright” issues with some of the playlist. We have a license from ASCAP to play these songs. Unfortunately, there is no toll-free, 800 number to reach YouTube to let them know.

One of our viewers had suggested that we selected a provider other than the low bid. We’ve already addressed the issue of charging for content and there weren’t very many subscribers. So, keep in mind, what we’re providing is free to the viewers. Not free to produce by any means.

Until we get our own earth station, we’ll probably have to constrain oursleves to doing the World Challenge. It’s our intention to start working on this right now. The most important component in bringing you HD quality is a big pipeline. Twenty MBS would be great. We’re looking. Stay tuned!

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